Born in Beckenham, Kent (now in Greater London), Prince grew up in South London. She went to a girls' grammar school, where she enjoyed grammar and Latin, but not maths. Her parents were from Scotland and Yorkshire. Her father was a keen pianist, and Prince herself still plays the clarinet. As a child she enjoyed visiting Scottish relatives in Glasgow.
After completing a degree course at the Slade School of Art, where she had won a scholarship, Prince found only casual, low-paid jobs unrelated to art. She later took a postgraduate teaching diploma at Goldsmith's College, then taught art at the Elliott Comprehensive School, in Putney. She married a fellow teacher there, had three children, which interrupted her teaching career, and turned instead to occasional journalism. After the marriage ended, she ran a small farm in Suffolk for eight years.
Prince later moved into writing for children's television, achieving fame with the Trumpton series for pre-schoolers, first screened in 1967. Her first book was Joe and a Horse and other stories about Joe from 'Watch with Mother', with Joan Hickson, a 1968 spin-off from the BBC pre-school program Watch with Mother. In the late 1970s, she turned to writing books for children, some based on historical characters. They include My Royal Story about Catherine of Aragon, which was re-released in 2010. How's Business (1987), set in World War II, made the shortlist for the Nestle Smarties Book Prize.
The Sherwood Hero (1995) is a modern-day Robin Hood story for young adults, about a girl stealing a credit card from her father's client, drawing £100, attempting to hand it out to the poor in the streets of Glasgow, and then coping with the guilt. For this Prince was a joint winner (with Philip Pullman) of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children's writers. Her thriller Oranges and Murder was the Scottish Arts Council Children's Book of the Year in 2002. Translations of her books have been published in several languages, including Danish, German, Japanese, and Welsh.
Mainly for adults, Prince wrote well-received biographies of Kenneth Grahame (1994, reissued 2009) and Hans Christian Andersen (1998), a collection of essays on formative thinking, two booklets of poetry, and two volumes of pieces that originally appeared in a local Arran newspaper.
In 2005, Alison Prince received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Leicester for services to children's books.
Forbidden Soldier, a children's book about the second phase of the English Civil War, appeared in 2014, as did The Lost King: Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, a biography of Richard III, whose remains were dug up in 2013 in a Leicester car park.
* These titles are or have recently been available in the UK, according to the websites of major internet booksellers.